How do we differentiate between cultural tradition and what is effectively torture?


FGM (female genital mutilation) falls within the definition of abuse under international law i.e. physical,  psychological, emotional, or sexual where the person could not have consented or were pressurised into consenting. It aims to ensure premarital virginity and marital fidelity by reducing the woman’s libido in an effort to resist extramarital sexual acts. Traditionally girls who are cut increase their marriage prospects. FGM is the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. Cutting is considered a  cultural ‘rite of passage’ to initiate girls into womanhood and is accompanied by communal celebration with gifts bestowed. The procedure is done without anaesthetic, often performed by traditional circumcisers or ‘cutters’ who do not have any medical training. In some countries it may be done by a medical professional in the belief that the procedure is then safer.

  • The procedure is cultural and not part of any religious tradition
  • There are no health benefits and serious complications often arise
  • It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women.

FGM  is found in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and within communities from countries in which FGM is common. Girls are at risk of being returned to their home countries for FGM especially during holiday periods to allow for healing to take place.  It is  is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15, commonly before puberty begins. It is estimated that between 50 and 60% remain unaware that they have been subjected to the procedure if carried out in infancy or early childhood due to trauma memory being suppressed.

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There is a danger that we become desensitised to the daily, horrific accounts of child sexual abuse, particularly those perpetrated by the clergy.  If we are ever to take appropriate action to defend children it is essential that we understand the level of depravity. This blog is offered in an attempt to give a voice to the individuals who have shown such courage in coming forward to tell their stories in order that others will not have to endure the same experiences.  One of the most harmful aspects of childhood sexual abuse is of not being heard or of not being believed. The least we can now do is to listen to them.

Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro alleged on CBS  that the Vatican knew about a cover-up involving sex abuse allegations against priests. Priests would go, bishops would go and lie to parishioners, lie to law enforcement, lie to the public but then document all of the abuse in secret archives that they would share oftentimes with the Vatican.”  Bringing the  perpetrators to justice is paramount but this is dependent upon the catholic church refraining from acting as a feudal monarchy which believes itself to hold a moral ascendency beholden only to its own law. Continue reading


In 2015 Canada’s  5 year Truth and Reconciliation Commission delivered a scathing rebuke to the catholic church along with Protestant denominations entrusted with the care and education of  thousands of indigenous children for more than a century. The Canadian government formally apologised ten years ago for the colonial ‘assimilation policy’ later described as  ‘cultural genocide’ by the  Government Commission.  For decades children were forcibly removed from their parents and placed in Indian residential schools mainly under the care and control of the catholic church. Under a regime designed to strip them of every vestige of their  cultural heritage they were subjected to continuous and barbaric  sexual, physical, mental and emotional abuse. Children were stripped of native artefacts and clothing and forced to wear western dress, their hair was cut short and they were not allowed to speak their native language. Continue reading


So many people die annually from gunfire in the US that the death toll between 1968 and 2011 eclipses all wars ever fought by the country.

According to research by Politifact, there were about 1.4 million firearm deaths in that period, compared with 1.2 million US deaths in every conflict from the War of Independence to Iraq. The US spends more than a trillion dollars per year defending itself against terrorism, which kills a tiny fraction of the number of people killed by ordinary gun crime.

  • On average there is more than 1 mass shooting per day in America.
  •  America has 4.4% of the world population but owns almost half of the civilian owned guns around the world.
  • In 2012, 64% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides.
  • Before the deadly shooting at  Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February there had already been 18 incidents at schools involving gun shots in 2018

The particular horror of the  Sandy Hook shooting shocked the world, it was assumed that the massacre of 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 years old would initiate stronger gun control. It did not. The National Rifle Association boasted that  its membership surged to around five million in the aftermath. There have been more than 1,500 mass shootings since Sandy Hook, at least 239 were school shootings In which 438 people were shot, 138 being killed. Researchers and gun control advocates say that since 2013, they have logged school shootings at a rate of about one a week. Katherine W. Schweit, a former senior F.B.I. official and the co-author of a study of 160 active shooting incidents in the United States said, “We have absolutely become numb to these kinds of shootings, and I think that will continue.” Continue reading

Catholic Christian Brothers and Sexual Abuse

Hearing impairment is by its very nature not only disabling but isolating as communication is compromised. Prior to advances in technology many profoundly deaf children were also mute, unable to speak, making them among the most vulnerable in society. The idea that anyone might take advantage of this disability is repugnant however historical child abuse in its many forms has been perpetrated by a minority of staff in residential care settings. This  is increasingly being revealed as an international problem, a sad commentary on society as a whole.

See http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2011/10/113_96847.html

Saint Josephs School for the Deaf opened in Dublin Ireland in 1845, run by the Catholic Christian Brothers, a teaching Order known for its strict and sometimes harsh discipline. The school gained a reputation for a high standard of education and vocational skills training boys as cobblers and tailors as preparation for financial independence.

Language is the foundation of culture, historically used, knowingly or unknowingly as  a powerful tool of Continue reading

ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME – Sexual abuse of disabled children by priests

As Pope Francis’ continues to defend the Bishop of Chile, long identified as covering up abuse by a fellow priest who was later found guilty by the Vatican, we might remember the famous quote: “All that is necessary for the forces of evil to triumph is for enough good men to remain silent”. The growing scandal of pedophile Catholic priests reveals the magnitude of institutionalised sexual abuse of children over decades, perhaps the greatest shock is the lengths to which the church hierarchy have gone to conceal and deny the abuse. Under the spotlight of the ‘Me Too’ movement, a pause to consider the survivors who do not have the privilege of a celebrity platform from which to speak…who did not in fact even have a voice to speak with…. those who were hearing impaired or mute.  In considering the depth of depravity of pedophile priests we need look no further than the Provolo Institute for the Deaf in Verono Italy and the filmed confession of Father Nicholas Corradi:

“I never screamed..I could not speak”   

Corradi worked in the Provolo Institute for deaf and mute children in Italy for many years and was one of several priests accused of sexual abuse by disabled children. When the church hierarchy failed to respond to their disclosures the children went public, naming their abusers. In 2012 (during the pontificate of Pope Benedict) The Congregation for the Defense of the Faith determined that Corradi had sexually abused deaf and mute children in Italy. The Vatican sanctioned four priests but Carradi went unpunished and relocated to Argentina where he  took up employment at the Argentine Antonio Provolo Institute for hearing impaired children. Continue reading


The world reels from the gutter language used by the President of the United States as he manages to insult  a quarter of the countries of the world, concerning his views on immigration policy.  His response to accusations of racism,  a thinly veiled excuse – ‘it’s not racism it’s a financial problem‘  reveals the billionaire businessman beneath the presidential facade. By comparison the dignified response of the people of Haiti and Africa to his derogatory description of their countries provides an example that he would do well to emulate.

As we spare a thought for the 65 million people currently displaced  by conflict, war and persecution, the latest report shows that while the richest nations ponder on possible ways to curb immigration, many of the worlds poorest nations are hosting  56% of the global refugee population.  An Amnesty International report for 2016 states that many of the world’s wealthiest nations “host the fewest and do the least”.

The United States has historically led the world in terms of resettlement, admitting 84,995 refugees in the fiscal year ending in September 2016. In 2017 President Trump cut the refugee quota by 50%, a policy currently being challenged in the Federal Court. In 2017 only 42,000 refugees were resettled in America; Canada in contrast  resettled 30,000 refugees in 2016.  Continue reading

AID and ‘undue influence’

The dictionary definition of undue influence: “influence by which a person is induced to act otherwise than by their own free will or without adequate attention to the consequences.”

President Trumps threat to withdraw Aid from the  countries  who chose to vote against the US and the US Ambassador’s statement that ‘we will not forget and are taking names’  sent a collective global shudder though the halls of power. Through these actions the long standing but previously obscured  abuse of power becomes transparent. The spectacle of the ‘leader of the free world’  supported by  a mere handful of vulnerable nations, each of which have an inherent dependency on access to US Aid has caused many to question the degree of pressure they faced.

Guatemala with a weaker and more corrupt state and a more impoverished society than that of Mexico has a growing public debt. President Perez Molina is looking to Washington for military aid to support the Guatemalan army to root out corruption. Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate  and high levels of sexual violence despite a population of a little over 9 million. An estimated 1 million Hondurans reside in the United States, 600,000 of whom are believed to be undocumented; consequently, immigration issues are an important item on the bilateral agenda.

Micronesia: (A Federation of small island states, formerly a United Nations Trust Territory under U.S. administration until gaining independence in 1986.) The US will provide $100 million annually over the next 20 years. Guam – 210 sq. mi.; population 186,000 Guam is the largest single island in Micronesia. A territory of the United States and one of its primary military bases in the Pacific. Nauru : 8 sq. mi.; population 9,000. An independent nation; single island. The United States is a major financial contributor to international and regional organizations that assist Nauru, Palau – 177 sq. mi.; population 21,000  an archipelago  of over 300 islands, only 8 of which are inhabited.Palau is the largest recipient of aid per capita from the US, receiving more than $852 million over the last 15 yerars.

Marshall Islands70 sq. mi.; population 68,000. The United States conquered the islands in 1944. The Marshall Islands served as a test theatre for American nuclear weapons from 1946 to 1958 with 67 weapon tests  conducted, These including the 15-megaton  hydrogen bomb test  on Bikini Atoll which was 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Bikini Atoll became uninhabitable. Prior to nuclear testing, the residents had initially accepted resettlement voluntarily to Rongerik Atoll, believing that they would be able to return home within a short time. Rongerik Atoll could not produce enough food and the islanders starved and were again relocated. In 1970  islanders returned to the Bikini Island, advised it was now safe, until further testing revealed dangerous levels of strontium-90.    Today the Marshall Islands, relies on nominal access to U.S. based health agencies and is, like so many of the islands states of Micronesia, dependent upon US Aid  which represents a large percentage of the islands’ gross domestic product.

TOGO West Africa: Amid a diplomatic drive by Israel to extend its influence in West Africa, Togolese President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe  met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu twice in 2017. This  included a conference hosted by the Togo President where Netanyahu stated “Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is coming back to Israel,” The President has visited Israel three times since 2012 and Lome the capital, consistently sides with Jerusalem in international organisations,”

While congratulating the moral victory of the 129 nations who chose to ignore the threat, at the UN Council we might also consider the 35 who chose to abstain and why, among them Canada for example, walking a political tightrope with one eye on current NAFTA negotiations.



 Myanmar (Burma) is located between India, China, Bangladesh and Thailand, its population is comprised of a distinct  ethnic mix of tribal peoples with 135 ethnic groups and ‘eight national races’.

The Rohingya people  are indigenous to Arakan, the old coastal country of Southeast Asia, now renamed Rakhine. In ancient times a  southern branch of the Silk Road connected India, Burma and China with Arakan  which became a key centre of maritime trade and cultural exchange for  Arab merchants. From the 8th century BC  Islamic conversion, intermarriage and settlement led to an  increased Muslim Arakan population. The modern day Rohingya believe they descended from  these early Muslim communities and ancient Sanskrit inscriptions in the region indicate that the founders of the first Arakanese states were Indian. As Muslims the Rohingya  are a minority religious group  in Myanmar where Buddhism is practiced by 88% of the population according to the latest government census. Minority groups dispute these figures. 

China is the original homeland of the Bamar  tribal people of the Dian Kingdom, annexed by China  in  109BCE.   The Bamar migrated from Central Asia and Tibet around the 9th century and settled in the region which is now northern Burma where they integrated with the native Pyu people. The Bamar people are primarily Buddhist and now comprise 69% of the total population of Myanmar. 

In 1784  the Bamar conquered Arakan, resulting in  some 35,000 Rohingya  fleeing  over a fifteen year period  into neighbouring  British Bengal, to seek protection. Thousands of men were executed by the Burmese military with many of the Arakan population deported to central Burma, leaving their homeland depopulated. The colonial policy of the British in India encouraged waves of Bengali migrants into the area of Arakan  to work as farm labourers, primarily due to the requirement for cheap labour to work in the paddy fields.

British commercial and strategic interest in Burma led to war in the mid-1820s. The  East India Company, an agent of British colonial power, extended its jurisdiction to Arakan, its armed forces seized the capital Rangoon, defeating the war-elephants and musketeers of the King of Ava. Arakan was annexed by the British in 1824 and administered as a colony by the East India Trading Company. Further wars led to Burmese defeat by the British Raj and the annexation of all of lower Burma in 1852. In 1885 following the British invasion of what was left of the Burmese kingdom the country’s ancient monarchy was abolished and its king exiled to India. Burma was then governed by the British Raj as a province of India, like the Punjab or Bengal, with little or no sensitivity to Burmese culture. As India moved towards independence, Rangoon became increasingly cosmopolitan with the Burmese becoming  an excluded minority. By the beginning of the 20th century, Indians were arriving in Burma at the rate of a quarter million per year, equivalent to the United Kingdom today taking 2 million people a year. By 1927, Rangoon exceeded New York City as the greatest immigration port in the world. Indian immigrants formed a majority of the population of the largest cities in Burma, fanning Burmese resentment, nationalism and religious hatred with riots specifically directed against the Indian Muslim community.

Colonial control was interrupted  by the Japanese invasion of Burma in 1942 when Arakan became prominent  in the conflict. The war resulted in a complete breakdown of civil governance in Burma  with  Buddhists instigating cruel measures against  Muslims. Allied forces were back in control by 1945 but the Burmese, already divided along ethnic and religious lines were impatient for Independence.The British were faced with an unexpected insurgency and thousands of Burmese nationalists fought and died in the guerilla warfare which followed before Burma became independent in 1948, by which time much of the country had been under British rule for nearly a hundred years. Arakan effectively became a colony of Burma.

Following a military coup in 1962  the military junta took power and promptly shut off the country from the outside world. Burma has only  emerged  from self-imposed isolation in recent years. The Rohingya have been systematically deprived of their political rights since that time. In 1982 New Citizenship law imposed by the military junta  excluded Rohingya from  the list of 135 national races, stripping them of citizenship.

In 1989 Burma was renamed Myanmar. Arakan State was renamed Rakhine State with identity cards excluding Rohingya. Formerly recognized as an indigenous ethnic nationality of Burma  with members of the group serving as representatives in the Burmese parliament and high-ranking government positions, the Rohingya are  now stateless, subjected to various forms of extortion and arbitrary taxation; land confiscation; forced eviction house destruction and financial restrictions on marriage. Rohingya  have been subjected to routine forced labour to work on military or government projects, arable land, has been confiscated by the military and given to Buddhist settlers.  In addition to political persecution in the last four years Rohingya Muslims have been  subjected  to escalating persecution by an extreme Buddhist  sect of monks. The UN describing Rohingya persecution as a crime against humanity.

Aung San Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace prize for her peaceful resistance to oppression, suffering 15 years house arrest before leading the National League for Democracy to a major win in the first open election of 2015.  She has to date failed to speak for the Rohingya people and recently requested at the UN that the name Rohingya should not be used.

The international focus on Myanmar’s religious/ethnic issues has overshadowed the  vast land grabs by the government.The past two decades have seen a massive worldwide rise of corporate acquisitions of land for mining, timber, agriculture and water generated by military-economic interests.  Myanmar’s natural resources include oil and gas, various minerals, precious stones and gems, timber and forest products, hydropower potential, etc. Of these, natural gas, rubies, jade, and timber logs are the most valuable and currently provide a substantial portion of national income. In 2012 land  laws were changed to open the country to foreign investors. Corporate acquisitions were favoured and  land allocations increased by  170% between 2010 and 2013. Recently the government allocated 1,268,077 hectares (3,100,000 acres) in the Rohingya area of Myanmar for corporate rural development.

In the  Myanmar Census of  March 2014 the Burmese government banned the word “Rohingya”. It was reported that the  Myanmar government had created a plan to expel the country’s persecuted  Muslim minority. Under the proposal, all Rohingya who refuse to identify themselves as “Bengalis” (a term used for illegal migrants from Bangladesh) and do not have documentation acceptable to the government would be detained in camps before being driven out of the country. In 2016 the  UN accused Myanmar of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, estimating that a million Rohingya refugees will have left Myanmar for Bangladesh by the end of 2017.

Researchers from the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London suggest that the Myanmar government is in the final stages of an organised process of genocide against the Rohingya.

Global Migration – A Return

Screen shot 2015-08-02 at 18.04.47As a child of around 8 I was disturbed by a recurring vision I did not understand. I could clearly see the continent of Africa with which I was familiar from my school books, it was like viewing a map. As I watched, the map began to burn slowly, beginning at the top slightly to the left of centre then moving to the left and right where it it burned more quickly until the whole of the top section was alight. At this point the vision would fade, leaving me perplexed. Continue reading

The Karma of Genocide (1)

BORDERS AND BOUNDARIES:  The aim of colonialism is to exploit the physical, human, and economic resources of an area to benefit the colonising nation. Between the 1870s and 1900  Africa  ColonisationAfricaresisted European imperialist aggression, the attempt to colonise by foreign domination until finally Europeans  imposed their formal rule of law on African countries.. In 1884, leaders from 14 colonial powers, including the United States, Great Britain, Belgium, Portugal, Germany, Holland, Italy and Spain, held the Berlin Conference where they divided the continent of Africa into 50 countries and claimed them for themselves. No African representatives were invited. Continue reading

The Karma of genocide (2)

TRAFFICKING: The Portugese travellers who discovered the Kingdom of Kongo in the 15th century reported a population close to half a million people, a highly developed state at the centre of an extensive trading network. Merchants traded in raw materials including ivory and a wealth of manufactured goods such as copper and ironware, raffia cloth and pottery all of which were highly profitable and in great demand in Europe.

In the 1800s the great explorer David Livingstone established his hospital then disappeared into the jungle to minister to the African natives before the famous meeting stanley-portrait2with Stanley in 1871. King Leopold II of the Belgians read about this meeting in The Times, igniting his desire to acquire land to increase his personal wealth. When the Belgian parliament resisted he decided to acquire the colony himself. The king commissioned Stanley to go back to Africa under the guise of an international scientific and philanthropic association, – to negotiate with the local chiefs. The 400 “cloth and trinket” treaties of the next four years were sealed by pacts. The African chiefs believing they were signing friendship pacts, they were in fact selling their land. Continue reading

The Karma of Economic Slavery (3)

BONDAGE: Slavery in Africa  existed throughout the continent for centuries before the arrival of white settlers but was a small part of the economic life until Europeans introduced a form of slavery which  devastated African life and society in theSlavery+Zanzibar+-+12 1400s. The Portuguese were the first to buy slaves and the Spanish the first to use enslaved Africans in the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola. The Abolition of Slavery by Great Britain in 1833 led to the collapse of the international African slave trade economy resulting in European financial losses. This coincided with the colonisation of Africa and was the beginning of a commodity based trading system designed to serve the industrialisation of Europe.

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PAEDOPHILIA – The Abuse of Power

As  the extent of sexual abuse and paedophile networks is increasingly revealed we are faced with the reality of what has been concealed by perpetrators and those who have protected them for decades. Generations of children  grown to adulthood yet scarred for life are now coming forward to tell their stories of what they were forced to endure. The weapon of the paedophile is secrecy, the victim unable to seek help, believes and with good reason that they will not be believed and so remains silent. Continue reading